Sunday, August 09, 2009

we won! and other national poetry slam thoughts

Well that was fun. My team, St. Paul, took first place at the 2009 National Poetry Slam. Kind of a shock, but I'm cocky so not that much of a shock. But yeah. A bunch of random thoughts:

The trophy is a big sword going through a stack of books. Pretty cool.

Somehow, once we got to finals we still had some of our best poems. And we had to fight like hell to even GET to Finals (had to beat Austin, DC, Oakland, NYC Urbana twice, and a bunch of other great teams in prelims and semis). Goes to show the importance of not only writing lots of good poems and having deep pockets, but knowing how and when to play the pieces you have. It was nice to have an experienced coach on our side.

We took a 1 in every one of our bouts, without using a single group piece. That was a point of pride for us. Nothing against group pieces; when they're done right they're incredible... but they're so rarely done right.

And that's really the most satisfying part of winning: I think our team writes and performs beautiful, meaningful, thoughtfully-constructed poetry. Maybe I'm just overly critical, but hardly anything touched me this year like poems have in the past. Too much of this year's nationals fell on two extremes: loud, blunt, not-so-poetic shouting pieces, and overly flowery, imagery/metaphor-packed-for-no-real-reason, capital-P Poems. I think our team finds the happy medium between these two styles and we got rewarded for it. No offense to anyone out there; just my opinion. I like storytelling, persona poems, new angles to familiar subjects, etc.

I did like Seattle's statue of liberty piece, Jared from Urbana's entomologist love poem, Oz from Boston's devil poem, Albuquerque's work poem (which preceded me in finals), and a few others. Obviously, we didn't get to see every bout; I'm sure there was amazing stuff all over. Really wanted to catch the two Denver teams; never got a chance. Chicago and Hawaii are usually fun too.

The second most satisfying part of winning was repping the Midwest. I know so many people and poets from the Twin Cities, Madison, Milwaukee, Columbus, Chicago and all the other spots in between who have really helped me develop and grow as an artist and as a person, so it was real nice to represent for all of them. Also, we get to remind our flyover-state brethren that we can succeed just as much as the teams from the Bay, from NYC, from Texas and anywhere else succeed, especially when we support one another. The amazing Minneapolis team in particular was crucial for giving us energy and support.

This year, I got to do Starfish, the Family Business, Handshakes and Love in the Time of Zombies. That's a quartet of poems I'm pretty proud of. Did the first two last year as well, and the latter two are new to NPS. All four went over very well.

The Minnesota air on my face after I stepped off the bus was surprisingly comforting. Maybe just because it's not 130% humidity.

Yes, Josh, Brave New Voices is better. But we still had a great time.

I wish there had been more workshops. Open mics and slams are good, but next year it'd be nice to have something different.

Need to get some sleep. More thoughts and pictures later.

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